Time has come! Soon our first Blogpost will be written!
Update: Haha, or so I thought on Friday morning (September 14th, 2018) at 10 AM… before I realized that writing an article would be taking more than 30 minutes. Also we desperately wanted to take a look at our bicycles to be and sort out as much as possible for our trip. Additionally when I wanted to write again the battery of the laptop had died and the charger did not fit into our adapter for the wall socket… but first things first, I some more words were written on the front porch of the hostel!
We are sitting in the shade in front of the hostel „Halifax Backpackers“ and are enjoying our tea from the Café, this moment of just being here, the weather (blue sky, sun, 22 degrees Celsius in the shade), the conversations of the other guests and the view - the colorful house across the street, the overhead power cables you would never see in Germany and just the busy street itself. We are here. From Göttingen Main Station, Germany to Gottingen Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in a bit less than 24 hours.
One year we have been playing around with the idea of making the dream actually come true, to spend one year in Canada traveling, living and working. Since February 2018 we know that we have been drawn and actually fulfill the preconditions and really are allowed to apply for a visa. Since the end of April our bosses, families, friends and colleagues know about it too. It all was a long process - and then, five goodbye parties later, it suddenly only were ten days to go until departure.
Many important things were already taken care of - some were not. Sleeping bag, sleeping mat and camping dishes for me still had to be ordered and hopefully delivered to us in time. Also we had not yet organized where we would be staying on our first days in Halifax. To our surprise we had to find out that Halifax only has two hostels… luckily we were still able to get a double room for six nights in one of them.
Hard to believe but there was another point we had not checked off the list yet. We want to explore Canada by bike… for that it would be helpful to have bikes - and not only any bikes but possible the best bikes for our plans. Pascal already had done a thorough research on the internet and had found a competent looking bike shop and a perfekt bike model. Now all that was left to do was get in touch with the shop and sort out the details. I also wanted to have a second opinion as we weren’t bicycle experts (yet). Therefore I called Alex a former work colleague and bicycle enthusiast and expert. Dear Alex, thank you so much once more for your competent, quick and calm advice! It was super helpful! Without you we would have fought much worse for sure… ;) Long story short, after quite some forth and back via mail with Alex and „Cycle Smith“ (the bike shop of our trust) we were able to decide on a good bike model - even though it was not possible to get the model we original wanted. Cycle Smith promised to order different frame sizes for us to test and gave us the tip to order the dynamo hup that needed to be put on the bikes from Germany as they would be cheaper here. So in the end this too turned out well.
Then it suddenly was Wednesday evening… and we welcomed surprise visitors Ferdinand and Henrik from Hanover. We had planned on having packed our stuff and cleaned the flat by 6 PM to have a relaxed last evening with the boys - of cause this did not work out. At least everything we had ordered had been delivered to us right on time so now all that was left to do was not to lose track and get everything packed. Thanks to our visitors the kitchen got cleaned and delicious food got prepared. Well nourished and with the pressure to not wanting to behave bad in front of our friends and also be finished as quick as possible we were able to pack quite productive. Our luggage consists of to panniers for going on the front rear wheel, two panniers for the back wheel, a big rack pack for going across the back carrier and a small bag to go on the handlebars. Everything is water resistant and high quality from „Ortlieb“. Surprisingly almost finished we both had quite some room left in our bags but as we will have to fill at least one bag with food when actually on tour that probably is just about right. For the transport in the airplane we used cover bags for big hiking bag packs. They are usually used to safely store all the ribbons on the back pack in order for making sure the air plane company actually transports it. With some effort and together it was possible to put all the panniers in the coating bag - making one big piece of luggage out of six smaller bags. Henrik, Ferdinand - a thousand thank you’s for paying us a visit! Thanks to your calmness and help the evening turned out a lot more pleasant than we had feared. Nevertheless sorry that we were not able to reward your long way with a clean home and packed bags!
When thinking about what one should bring to a trip like this one of cause is quite clue- and helpless at the beginning - at least when you (like us) have no experience with bike-trekking whatsoever. However thanks to the www when searching „Ortlieb Packliste“ („Ortlieb packing list) we found an extremely helpful list from Steffi, the author of the German blog „no rush“ https://www.keine-eile.de/packliste-backpacker-radreisen/. We pretty much packed what she listet. Visual inspiration was found here: http://samuelontour.com/de/ueber-mich/ausruestung/ from Samuel on Tour… in contrast to many other YoutTube videos about the same topic Samuels Video only lasts eleven minutes instead of a whole hour.
After four hours of sleep we finally started our journey on September 13th, 2018 at 5:30 AM . Thanks to Pascals grandparents we travelled comfortable by car from Sankt Andreasberg to Göttingen. The weight of our luggage per person was approximately 20 kilos and very well packed for the flight - however for being carried it was not suitable at all. In Göttingen too we were in for a pleasant surprise: Pascals colleague Gerhard came to the main station to say good bye to us together with Renate and Peter, his grandparents. From Gottingen to Hamburg main station we travelled by ICE (Inter City Express), then we changed to the tram to the Airport. Everything went smoothly - the train was on time, so we even had time to buy lunch at the main station. When we finally arrived at the airport we were lucky that exactly two baggage cars were waiting at the station for us to put our bulky and heavy bags on. We arrived right on time in order to not have too much waiting time for checking our bags… which of cause had to be brought to the special check in for bulky items. Apart from that our check-in went smooth - if you ignore the small but disturbing question if we had an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) for Canada. This only costs seven Canadian dollars, can simply be ordered online in just a few minutes and usually takes only a few more minutes to be in your e-mail - but can in some cases take a few days to arrive. However, as far as we knew, with the IEC (International Experience Canada) visa you do not need to have one or you get it automatically. Unfortunately no one at the check-in knew our visa which made the situation a bit tricky, especially as we did not have the visa yet but only the „Letter of Approval“ - an official letter which confirms that we were allowed to get the visa. Wether or not, after the laborious act of the application procedure, you actually get the work visa for a year is up to the immigration officer at the border at the airport in Canada. However after explaining the procedure and showing the letter there were no further problems with checking in - the first hurdle was taken.
Afterwards we enjoyed lunch on the roof terrace of the airport with lookout onto the runway - which is accessible without a plane ticket and completely free for everyone! At five minutes past 2 AM our plane from „Iceland Air“ took off from Hamburg towards Reykjavik where we landed three hours and ten minutes later. After three hours of changing time the journey continued for four hours and 35 minutes to Halifax. Arriving time locally was twenty minutes to eight PM - therefore in Germany it already was twenty minutes to 1 AM the next day. At the airport in Halifax we were greeted by an unexpected warm, Mediterranean feeling breeze from outside - in Iceland on the contrary it was so cold we needed to put on winter jackets. Secondary there was a pleasantly fresh breeze coming from the reception hall where a big waterfall creates a calm, soothing and refreshing atmosphere. What a marvelous idea! At least for me the enthusiasm about this greeting and the pleasant atmosphere, the sound of the water and the fresh air helped immensely with the nervousness because of the visa. After having been registered through a computer and having confirmed that we had no goods to declare we were send to the officer at the border who sent us further down to the immigration authorities. Nobody except us was here, so it was our turn immediately. For this moment we had prepared for a long time so we had everything with us that was required:
- the letter of approval
- the passport (valid well after the time we would like to stay)
- proof about 250 Canadian dollar
- insurance policy of our health insurance (also valid as long as we would like to stay)
- police clearance certificate
- englisch CV
Except from the letter from the Canadian government and our passport we did not need anything. After examining all our documents online the immigration officer gave us the magic stamp. The only advice from her: we are not allowed to work in strip-clubs or escort-services. When after this quick and positive experience we found our luggage whole and undamaged waiting for us on the carousel we almost could not believe our luck. We had arrived in Canada - and we really are allowed to stay for a whole year!
Despite all the exciting things we were quite tired by now and did not feel like carrying our heavy and bulky luggage - so we decided to order a taxi instead of taking the bus into town. The airport being roughly 40 kilometers far from town it would have taken an hour to get there by bus - plus an nearly an hour waiting time for the bus and a kilometer to walk in town to get to the hostel. That’s why we would have been at the hostel only half past 10 PM. As the front desc at the hostel, regarding their website, would be closing at 10 PM it was even more reasonable to take the taxi and be there at half past 9 PM. Everything went quickly and smoothly and for the usual price of 63$ and a very nice chat we were brought directly in front of the doors of or hostel: „Halifax Backpackers“ auf der Gottingen Street.
The one ore another might already suspect - there has to come a „but“ in this perfect journey eventually… because that smoothly can not go any plan. And the „but“ came now. We were still stoked and in a good mood because of the good journey so far and the big step we had just achieved but after having been awake for 22 hours by now we were just unbelievable tired. Of cause in the taxi we dreamt of the luxury to have a big double bed for ourselves to stretch out our legs - in a room where we could lock the door behind us and sleep for ten hours straight. Arriving we were greeted warmly by a hip crowd on the footpath in front of the café „Alterego“ which belongs to the hostel. Inside we were greeted by Bailey with the words: „How are you - I hope you’ve booked? We’re packed!“ Of cause we had booked. I even had written back and forth with Michelle, the owner, quite some time and had written our arrival time and my credit card details as requested. Unfortunately the booking schedule told a different story. Both double rooms full - and net to neither of the two were my name written. A few days down the line finally there was a Kira in a double room - but she had a different last name than me. At this point our hearts sank - especially there were no beds in dormitories left either and after a quick search in the internet even the expensive hotels were completely booked. Grateful but also a bit annoyed we took the free beer Bailey offered us and drank to our successful immigration - while Bailey tried to get in touch with Michelle. While waiting we checked our mails again and were reassured that I had written the correct date of our arrival. Approximately 45 minutes (the café and with it the front desc does not close until 12 PM) and a very tasty, very cold, locally brewed beer later Bailey announced that it was no option to wait for Michelle to call back and fix the problem. Without Michelle it was not possible to bring us to the „Beach House“ the other hostel of the same owner outside of town where there were still beds available. However there should be a bed for us this night nevertheless. Of cause it cost 20 $ more… but what can you say? A bed. For us. In Halifax. Now. We did not had a choice, it was not ideal - but we were just relieved that some kind of a solution had been found. Bailey ordered a taxi for us and gave us money for it (7 $, it wasn’t far away) and soon we and our bulky luggage were on our way to the „Fountain View“ Guesthouse. A nice and very old lady opened us the door to a quiet, in need of a renovation bit clean house. Our bed looked unbelievable comfortable with its with roses and ruche decorated cover and - after paying the 75$ cash (approximately 50€) - we could finally lock the door behind us and stretch our tired bodies out on the bed.
Thanks to the time difference (Canada ist five hours later than Germany) after eight hours of sleep from 11 PM to 7 AM we were wide awake and well rested. The view into the sunny, very much taken care of garden made us think about staying our week in Halifax here. But after a hot shower and a short conversation with our host we decided against this idea. 20 $ more for a quiet garden but no wifi and no possibility to cook for ourselves. Our host confirmed that we were more the „hostely type of people“ - so we additionally got the feeling that we were disturbing the peace of the little homestay. We decided to go for the luxury of a taxi again and were back at the hostel in no time. It took until 11 AM for it to be possible to check us in, so we had breakfast at the „Alterego“ and I startet to write this article. We had looked up the schedule with Bailey last night - a double room would only be available again on Monday. Until then we would be sleeping three nights in a dorm and from Monday on three nights in a double. After another free coffee in order to make up alle the waiting we got checked-in and got our keys. By the way - in the afternoon on that day Bailey told us why the booking had gone so terrible wrong: at the same time that I was emailing with Michelle she had another email conversation with another Kira with a different last name. The other Kira had asked for a double from just a few days later on but had not yet confirmed with her credit card information. So my confirmation got confused with the other Kira’s booking and everyone thought there was only one Kira who had asked to stay at the hostel. That there could be two Kiras with the same unusual spelling who both asked for a double is extremely unlikely.
So far for our preparations, our journey and our first night in Canada. Only that much more might be given away: as soon as we had checked in we were desperate to visit „Cycle Smith“ to say hello and take a look at our bikes. Only an hour later, after fitting and advice concerning our frame size we sat on the bikes and were allowed to do an one hour test drive. They handed us a map and showed us a route through which we could take a look at the town centre and the waterfront. The feeling when we were sitting with fresh fries and our future bikes by the water was incredible.
By now it is Thursday morning - since Sunday we finally have the adaptor for the laptop charger and since yesterday morning the German version of this blogpost is finished. Because we were out all day yesterday it took until now to finish the translation. It is obvious that 3.5 pages of text are too long - for me to write and for you to read. As it is my biggest challenge to write short and to the point I would like to change the format of the article for our first week in Halifax. I am thinking of something like the „Freitagslieblinge“ (Fridays Favorites) of the (Mum)Blogger Anna Luz de Léon from Berlin: https://berlinmittemom.com/category/bilder-geschichten/freitagslieblinge/ - only that the favorite book of the week and the favorite moment of the week with the kids are not as relevant in or situation. However the favorite moment, the favorite food and the inspiration of the week could be quite interesting for us. With this format I maybe could even make Pascal write a blogpost - or alternatively interview him about his favorites of the week. Maybe it also would be interesting to write about the most challenging moment of the week? Or the favorite place of the week? What would interest you the most? Please write a comment!
Until then so long!